By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
As the Utah Jazz spent time talking to candidates to become their next coach, Will Hardy quickly rose to the top of their list. And that’s where he stayed.
Hardy was announced as the coach of the Jazz on Wednesday, a day after the sides came to an agreement in principle. He’ll be a head coach in the NBA for the first time and, at 34, is currently the league’s youngest coach.
“As our search committee went through this process, Will really separated himself among a group of extremely talented candidates,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said. “We’re eager to get to work with him as we continue our pursuit of bringing an NBA championship to Utah.”
Hardy goes to Utah after spending this past season as an assistant in Boston, helping the Celtics make the NBA Finals. His previous 11 seasons were spent with the San Antonio Spurs, starting as a basketball operations intern, moving into the video room and eventually becoming an assistant under all-time wins leader and five-time NBA champion Gregg Popovich.
“The Utah Jazz are one of the most respected and successful franchises in the NBA and the fan base here is legendary,” Hardy said. “This opportunity comes with tremendous responsibility. I’m grateful for the trust the Jazz have placed in me and I look forward to the work ahead.”
Also Wednesday, the Jazz announced the hiring of longtime NBA coach David Fizdale as an associate general manager. Fizdale has been a head coach in New York and Memphis, plus an assistant for the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, Golden State and Atlanta.
Hardy will replace Quin Snyder, who decided to leave the Jazz earlier this month after eight seasons. Snyder and the Jazz made the playoffs in each of the last six seasons — tied for the second-longest current streak of postseason appearances in the league — and Hardy takes over a roster that features an All-Star-level guard in Donovan Mitchell and perennial defensive player of the year candidate Rudy Gobert.
Hardy also assisted Popovich during USA Basketball’s appearances at the 2019 Basketball World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Hardy left San Antonio for Boston to work for another former Spurs assistant, Ime Udoka — and now finds himself as the latest branch off the highly successful Popovich coaching tree.
“Will Hardy is one of the brightest young leaders in the NBA,” Jazz CEO of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. “He understands the importance of setting a vision and creating a culture for players. He places great value on communication, player development and creating the most productive environment for players to succeed. His experience on coaching staffs that have made the NBA Finals and with USA Basketball are invaluable and have helped prepare him for this moment.”
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